The Good Old Days

RickHouserBy Rick Houser – People’s Defender

Being raised rural and growing up on a farm, a person looks at the calendar differently than those raised in or near town and we definitely were not raised to understand a calendar in the same way. A farmer takes fewer holidays than probably any other person on this planet. Let me explain.

On our farm we went to work before 8 a.m. and worked until 5 or 6 p.m. in the fields and after supper we worked in our garden or mowed the lawn, all those jobs that needed done but didn’t generate any cash to pay the bills. Monday through Saturday the process was repeated. What we were doing might change, but not the time spent doing it. On Sunday we didn’t work. We went to church in the morning and after a Sunday dinner, everyone rested as it was the Sabbath and the assigned day of rest. This routine was carried out summer, winter, spring and fall.

A farmer sees the dates and days on a calendar but he doesn’t give much notice to the days printed in red letters. Holidays were for the most part only on Sunday. I don’t recall us ever taking a day off to celebrate Memorial Day or Labor Day. The only ones I recall that affected the schedules were Thanksgiving and Christmas. We for many years celebrated the Fourth of July as Grandpa Houser and his brother Archie were both born on that day, so the entire family gathered for a family reunion and a large birthday party. After both had passed away, this holiday faded from our calendars.

When Memorial Day arrived we were setting tobacco and we would get extra help from men off work from the factories on that day. They were happy to lend a hand as help could get scarce and they were getting holiday pay from the factory so they celebrated by doing a little labor on the side. In this gesture we felt the holiday was designed to benefit farmers and help them to get a little extra done. S

The same thing happened on Labor Day. We got a lot of tobacco cut and housed in the barns on that day. Maybe if our tasks at the time were in the fields and it was pouring rain, we did get a holiday. I don’t recall it ever raining on those holidays. As a matter of fact on Thanksgiving we stripped tobacco until noon and took a half day off. The only holiday I remember being scheduled to take off was Christmas. I really don’t know why but I’m going with the obvious reasons for Christmas.

As a boy I just couldn’t understand why folks that work away from the farm got extra days off from their job. We didn’t, and I thought it was because we were just so dedicated to farming and these men who worked in factories just weren’t doing enough. Some years later I left farming and I found a job in town. I learned that comparing farm work to working in town was like comparing apples to oranges. At first when I was given a holiday off, I went to the farm and worked hard and at first was seeing things from the farming side. But as time passed and more holidays passed and I got to take off those days, I actually did take the day off. And on top of that I enjoyed being off and didn’t feel guilty about it at all.

Many years have passed since I went to the field six days a week and worked from early morning to sometimes past dark. A farmer is his own boss and how long or how short he works is all on his shoulders, just depends on how much he wants to accomplish in each day. In the world away from the farm there is a time to start and to stop. We are expected to work on the average eight hours a day, five days a week and there are two weeks of vacation granted to you. Anything and all things are done for the benefit of another person or persons. All that is asked is that we work the hours asked and do a good job. If the business hits financial problem or needs to repair things, it is not our problem to worry about. A farmer worries when things break. There lies the big difference.

When I look at a calendar and see a day in red letters I get a little excited. I think to myself “oh boy I’ve only got a four day week to work.” Many of these holidays we get to celebrate with the family or some days we just putter around the house and enjoy the day off.

The bottom line is all the work is completed and the employer is happy because he has the day off too. This is such a far cry from rural living, where every minute gained could possibly earn that farmer a little more. Neither side is wrong in their approach but it can be very hard to understand. When I farmed, it never crossed my mind that I was missing out on off days because I didn’t care. Today, however, I certainly look forward to those days off. Let’s just say I have grown to accept the business approach. Bottom line is that it is all about perspective.

Rick Houser was raised on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at